Organic garden pest control aims for a balanced garden ecosystem that naturally keeps harmful pests away while facilitating rigorous, unimpeded plant growth and long-term soil health…
Pests come in all shapes and sizes, from tiny insects to large mammals. Here’s what you’re up against…
Now that you have some idea of what you’re up against, let’s discuss the foundation of a pest-controlled organic garden. Notice we said pest-controlled, not pest-free. After all, pests exist in nature and most wild plants seem to get along just fine. Your garden goal is to tip the scales in your favor to keep their presence at a minimum.
Towards this end, first consider what pests like…
Mammals like you, me, deer, raccoons and The Ever-Feared Garden-Shear-Wielding Aunt Bessie like our veggies fresh and healthy. But harmful insects and disease have an altogether different appetite that you can use in your favor: they prefer weak, unhealthy plants.
To keep harmful insects and disease at bay, your objective should be to keep your plants and soil as healthy as possible by…
Also recognize that a munched on-plant is not the end of the world. Even if pests get to your seedlings, as long as your garden’s conditions are ideal you’re crops should still produce a bountiful harvest.
The concept around deterring harmful insects is simple: don’t offer up your crops on a silver platter. Put yourself in their shoes. In a garden that’s thousands of times larger than you and considering there are some crops you can eat and others you can’t, how would you like your meals laid out?
Answer: All together, in the same location, year after year.
In other words (we’ve enlarged back to gardener size now), it’s best if you remove “traditional monoculture (single plant) row gardening” from your vocabulary (as if that were a common phrase).
Plant a variety of compatible crops (i.e. crops that prefer similar soil temperatures, soil pH, watering and won’t shade each other out) and alternate their locations. That way, if a pest does happen upon their favorite meal, they’ll be less likely to find a second course. And while they’re trying, they’ll be more likely to be intercepted by your garden predator allies (discussed in the next section).
For the same reasons, practice appropriate herb and vegetable crop rotation. You don’t want newly emerging larvae from last year’s insects or a persistent disease to have easy access year after year.
And have you ever heard of companion planting charts? The theory goes like this: some plants improve the growing environment for other plants. The actual benefit of this practice is up for debate, but whether companion plants repel pests, improve soil quality or provide a “living mulch” that shades out weeds, there’s certain to be at least a few positives that result from this strategy.
Here are some of the better known natural harmful insect repellents ordered by insect…
|Pest||Plant Repellent for Organic Garden Pest Control|
||mint, tansy, pennyroyal|
||mint, garlic, chives, coriander, anise|
|Bean Leaf Beetle
||potatoes, onion, turnip|
|Colorado Potato Bug
||green beans, coriander, nasturtium|
||garlic, onion, mint|
|Imported Cabbage Worm
||mint, sage, rosemary, hyssop|
||garlic, larkspur, tansy, rue, geranium|
|Mexican Bean Beetle
||potatoes, onion, garlic, radishes, petunia, marigolds|
|Root Knot Nematodes
||prostrate rosemary, wormwood|
||onion, garlic, cloves, chives|
||radishes, marigolds, tansy, nasturtium|
||marigolds, sage, borage|
|Plant Repellant List for Organic Garden Pest Control Reference: Natural Resources Conservation Service|
Keep in mind that some of the above – especially when growing a mint plant – can quickly turn from friend to foe by taking over your garden. You can still include the voracious growers with your other plants, just be sure to grow them in a separate container (pot, box, etc.) placed amongst your garden bed plants.
Even if you garden alone, there is an army waiting in the wings and anxious to help. The final level of prevention focuses on their recruitment.
Cottonmouth (Water Moccasin)
But keep in mind that you want a natural rise in the predator population without overdoing it… if you overshoot, the predators won’t have enough food and will move on to other yards. So focus on voluntary enlistment rather than purchasing and dispatching a hoard.
Following are the most common garden predators and how to entice them to come and stay…
|Beneficial Insect List for Organic Garden Pest Control Reference: Illinois Dept of Natural Resources|
For photographs and descriptions for each of the insect predators listed above, click here. That page also points out how to distinguish between good (predator) and bad (pest) insect eggs and good and bad stink bugs.
To attract most of the above beneficial insects along with other helpers, consider growing an entire bed of predator-attracting plants near your vegetable garden and include at least a few of the following…
In addition to attracting harmful insect predators, flowering plants will also attract the ever-important bee for pollination.
Once you’ve gotten your organic garden pest control ecosystem in place by following the advice above, you should be at least three-quarters of the way towards eliminating your pest problems. For any remaining issues, you’ll need to take more direct action…
Old fashioned hand pickin’ – Make the garden rounds a few times a week looking for harmful insects, eggs and larvae, preferably early in the morning. When you find them, do them in by picking or scraping them into a can of soapy water.
Insect barriers are an effective option for preventing harmful insects from ever accessing your plants in the first place. On the downside, they do make it a bit more difficult for you to get in and out for weeding and maintenance.
Insect traps are good for targeting specific types of harmful insects that are attacking your crops. They are available for apple maggot flies, codling moths, cucumber beetles, japanese beetles, peach tree borers and pests going after your apple trees.
Spray-on insect barriers made from the naturally occurring kaolin clay are applied directly on fruits or vegetables to form a protective barrier from insects. They may also protect against sun damage.
Install fencing to keep small and large animals out. The type you choose depends on the animals that are going after your crop:
Birds - Encouraging birds is one of the best natural ways to control unwanted insects, but they can also be pests themselves when they try to steal your hard-earned harvest. Draping netting over your plants and trees is the most effective way to prevent this:
If you’ve tried everything on this page and still have a problem (or if you’re still working on getting your soil and plant health in order for next year), it’s time to bring out the big guns. Here’s what’s in your natural arsenal…
Siphon mixers attach directly to your spigot and, after your garden hose is attached, allow you to easily mix your liquid pesticides with the water in the hose... a much easier way to properly dilute highly concentrated solutions.
This siphon mixer will mix your liquid pesticides at a precise 1 to 16 fertilizer to water ratio. It also has built-in features that prevent clogging.
Was this page helpful? If so, please tell your friends about it with a Facebook like or via Twitter, Pinterest, email or good old fashioned word of mouth. Thank you for supporting our efforts!
Copperhead photo is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic license. Coral snake photo is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license. Rattlesnake photo, cottonmouth photo and black widow photo are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license.